Long Beach City Council voted to adopt a $2.6 billion budget for the 2021 fiscal year Tuesday night, but some residents were still left feeling unsettled by the lack of cuts to the Long Beach Police Department.
The budget, which is a $204 million decrease from last year, was able to offset some of the $30 million financial setback the city was facing.
While the city council met for a four-hour teleconference to discuss heavy budget cuts to various community programs, students, teachers and the general public gathered at Recreation Park for a demonstration calling in favor of defunding the police.
Demonstrators marched outside of Councilmember Suzie Price’s home to lay coffins depicting the names of individuals killed by LBPD on her lawn. Price, who also serves as district attorney for Orange County, has shown support for the police in the past, which caused this public display of outrage.
There was disparity amongst residents’ opinions during public comment at the meeting in regards to how the LBPD budget should be affected.
Several community members, including the People’s Budget Coalition, who helped organize the earlier rally, spoke in favor of a 20% minimum reduction of LBPD budget while others called for more.
They rallied for this severance to not only alleviate the financial offset the community is facing because of the coronavirus pandemic, but to support other equitable programs by allocating those funds back into the community.
“I am disappointed by how little our voice matters to the city council mayor,” said one woman during public comment. “The police are murdering black and brown communities and you allow it to happen by giving them the resources to do it.”
Other residents during public comment argued that a higher reduction in the LBPD budget could lead to more crime, and lengthier response times for 911 calls.
“It is very sad and disappointing that we are seeing people that are only looking at what they want to see, especially when it comes to BLM [Black Lives Matter],” said a woman queued for public comment. “They want to see the bad side but they’re not looking into the good things officers do for the community which is safety.”
In the final proposed Long Beach budget for the 2021 fiscal year, the overall reduction for the LBPD was a mere 5%, meaning they will be receiving 39% of the city’s funding for the next year.
Prior to voting, Councilmember Al Austin II, who served as chair of this year’s budget process, said that the proposed budget plan was thoughtfully considered through the opinion of the public, but will most likely not adhere to the satisfaction of every member of the community.
In an effort to help with additional cuts, the city had proposed a furloughing and voluntary pay-reduction program for its employees, including Mayor Robert Garcia.
This, in addition to other budget cuts throughout the community, will be made to help offset the financial setbacks of the city of Long Beach as the coronavirus pandemic continues to tighten the city’s wallet.
The next City Council meeting will occur next Tuesday, Sept. 15 at 5 p.m. via teleconference.